he U.S. military has granted "protected status" under the Geneva
Convention to members of an exiled Iranian opposition group interned in
Iraq, France-based opponents of Tehran said in a statement.
The U.S. head of detainee operations in Iraq, Major-General Geoffrey
Miller, told the People's Mujahideen Organisation (MKO) its members held at
a base in eastern Iraq had been recognised as "protected persons under the
Fourth Geneva Convention," the statement said.
The decision -- announced in a letter to the group last week -- will allow
detainees from the group access to the International Committee of the Red
Cross and the U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR.
"(This is a) triumph for the Iranian Resistance and the Iranian people,"
Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),
said in a statement.
The MKO, which has previously been branded a terrorist group by the United
States and Europe, is the military affiliate of the NCRI, whose
headquarters are near Paris.
Iran regards the roughly 3,800 MKO fighters in Iraq as one of its biggest
external threats and wants the group's members to be handed over.
Diplomats say Tehran has offered to exchange some al Qaeda prisoners it is
holding for MKO leaders. Washington has refused the swap, the diplomats say.
Iranian government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh said the U.S. move to
grant the MKO protected status undermined Washington's claims to be
fighting terrorist groups.